Books, 2010

In 2010 I finished 40 books.  Here they are. The initial number in parentheses is a rating from 1-10.

2010 Goal: 40 BOOKS
SO FAR: 40 BOOKS

  1. (8) Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction – Thomas K. McCraw
  2. (6) The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict – Arbinger Institute
  3. (9) Makers – Cory Doctorow
  4. (6) Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World – Vali Nasr
  5. (6) A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present – Howard Zinn
  6. (9) What Does China Think? – Mark Leonard
  7. (10) Daemon – Daniel Suarez
  8. (8) Code: Version 2.0 – Lawrence Lessig
  9. (10) Science for Sale: The Perils, Rewards, and Delusions of Campus Capitalism – Daniel S. Greenberg
  10. (6) A Testimonial to Grace: And Reflections on a Theological Journey – Avery Dulles
  11. (5) American Gods – Neil Gaiman
  12. (7) Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future – Cory Doctorow
  13. (8) How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization – Franklin Foer
  14. (10) Freedom (TM) – Daniel Suarez
  15. (6) Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy – Moises Naim
  16. (8) The Case for God – Karen Armstrong
  17. (10) Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. – Ron Chernow
  18. (6) The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life – James Martin
  19. (3) Mastering the VC Game: A Venture Capital Insider Reveals How to Get from Start-Up to IPO on Your Terms – Jeffrey Bussgang
  20. (6) Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age – Viktor Mayer-Schonberger
  21. (6) Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope – Judith M. Brown
  22. (6) Schism and Continuity in an African Society: A Study of Ndembu Village Life – Victor Witter Turner
  23. (8) Galapagos at the Crossroads: Pirates, Biologists, Tourists, and Creationists Battle for Darwin’s Cradle of Evolution – Carol Ann Bassett
  24. (8) Confessions of an Economic Hitman – John Perkins
  25. (5) Let’s All Find Awesome Jobs – Kevin Fanning
  26. (8) Playing the Odds to Win Big in Business – Jeffrey Ma
  27. (6) Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
  28. (9) The Hidden Wealth of Nations – David Halpern
  29. (9) The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life and Mysterious Disappearance of an American Hero – Scott Anderson
  30. (7) Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming – Peter Seibel
  31. (8) The Teeth of the Tiger – Tom Clancy
  32. (7) Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War – Andrew Bacevich
  33. (10) Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing – Adam Greenfield
  34. (5) Halting State – Charles Stross
  35. (8) Zeitoun – Dave Eggers
  36. (8) The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary – Eric S. Raymond
  37. (10) The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity – Richard Florida
  38. (10) Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power – Robert Kaplan
  39. (7) Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation – Steven Johnson
  40. (7) The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World – Dominique Moisi

Craftwork

I just got back from a week-long vacation in New York City, which I really needed in order to recharge, reset, and get remotivated.  I got pretty burned out coding Galapag.us and am now going to work on some smaller experimental projects just for fun.

I made sure to spend plenty of time just walking through the city, as I prefer to do, getting a feeling for the rhythm of the city, how it works, and challenging myself to figure out where I am at all times and where I think I can find my next destination just based on sensing where people are heading, what the intuitive design is telling me, and where it’d make most sense to go next.

The city’s organic and designed layouts make a lot of sense.  Contrast it with DC.  DC is very much a bureaucrat’s city — it feels less as though conveniences were put in certain places because people found they belonged there, and more like some planner thought it’d be a good idea to overlap his system onto the underlying existing city.

Another aspect I picked up on was how visible different peoples’ crafts were in NYC.  Certainly DC is like any large city in that it has its own trades, but most of the people who live in DC are incredibly smart (having the highest density of highly-educated people in the nation) but not very creative, with professions geared towards analysis, policy, law, and communications.  Their skills are to jiggle with what exists towards whatever constituency they represent at the time.

But NYC seems truly to be a rich ecosystem of trades.  Everyone seems like a pro there.  Merchants, bakeries, patisseries, bankers, writers, cartoonists, designers, public parks workers, architects, shoeshiners, even the homeless.  It’s beautiful to watch the city flow, and I imagine that’s what Jack Dorsey loved to study when he professes his love for cities:

The boy who would one day invent Twitter was attempting to build a living map of New York. He wanted to capture the urban blur that had fascinated him from a young age, the buzz of vehicles, people and commerce that animates city life. Dorsey digitally reconstructed paper maps street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, then populated the thoroughfares with floating dots.

“I get so energized and inspired by cities, just walking around them and experiencing all the energy and life,” said Dorsey, 33. “I wanted to be able to visualize that.”

Contrast this with DC, which feels like it’s still recovering from being punched in the gut, with a strange and stark stratification of gentrifying neighborhoods, hopeless others, and a political class that notices neither.

I haven’t written much lately — I quit my job a couple months ago to work on Galapag.us full-time — but have recently been unhappy that I can’t point to any trade or craft of my own.  I mess around and play with code and design, but am not too happy doing them for other people.  Analysis for most in DC, even in counter-terrorism and general intelligence, is not a very tangible craft.  Like most of my peers, I know a little about a lot but not much more than that.  Not a chef, not a craftsman, not a really good player at any sport.

Is that as good as it gets?  Is that what I have to look forward to?  Now I know that some computer workers get satisfaction in their jobs.  I just finished Peter Seibel’s interviews with some of the most famous software developers of all-time, in his book Coders at Work.  These folks, most blessed with time early on in their lives on the first room-sized computers, are all asked whether they see themselves as scientists, programmers, artists, craftsmen, etc.  Most will say they are craftsmen above all — although they tend towards more artistry than science, holding science in high esteem as a technical, rigorous, academic discipline.  So at the highest level of software development, it can become a craft.

I think I’m going to have to mix things up a bit.  I need to work with my hands a little more.  There was something pretty fulfilling in the Army about using your hands (and whole body) a lot.  Rifle training, room-clearing.  Squad movements, building dumb stuff, digging dumb holes, carrying heavy stuff for dumb reasons.  At least you felt fulfilled at the end of the day, for some reason.

I found a program at New York University (NYU), the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), which looks VERY cool.  It stresses play, experimentation, and blending of art and culture with technology.  Classes with Python, Arduino, industrial design, web mash-ups, augmented reality.  The sorts of stuff you really wouldn’t expect an academic program to use, since we all know universities tend to lag behind when it comes to incorporating stuff off the internet.  So the class list has me as excited as I was about the international affairs program I went to, but this is definitely more tangible, more creative.  So I think I’m going to apply — it helps that I’m now eligible for the new GI Bill, which will greatly help foot the bill of going to school in Manhattan.

I just refuse to believe that life consists of sitting at a desk every day doing analysis and having promotions consist solely of pay raises and not ambition/usefulness promotions.

I’m 32 now so I’m getting a little old…but I can’t help but think I have to keep pushing, not really knowing where it’ll all go.  I’m more comfortable with the fact that I’ll never be good enough to do a lot of jobs or crafts, and I respect more as I get older the people who fall into certain trades.  I love that people become refined at their own crafts and are rewarded personally and spiritually and financially by them.  But which craft will be mine?  How will people know me?  What will they identify ME as?

“Brown & Yellow Rice” – Lou Dubbs & DJ Industrial Average

Now that I’m not in a full-time job anymore, I’m clearing up some old to-do list items.

First.  Me and my buddy decided to make a YouTube playlist of songs we thing would make good party music.  My usual name for releasing music mixes is DJ Industrial Average.  He chose Lou Dubbs, I think because at the time Lou Dobbs was leaving CNN after all the anti-immigration BS.  Our mixtape playlist name?  “Brown and Yellow Rice” (he’s Indian, I’m part Chinese).  Enjoy.

I also made a posterous account to dump images I’ve created or ones that are hard to find on the internet.

Wordle cloud of my Kindle highlights

Finally, here are my most recent Amazon Kindle highlights.  Suggestions for what to do with them to make them more accessible?  A lot of great quotes and content in there…

Drunken Georgetown Students

Someone in Burleith, the neighborhood just north of the Georgetown campus, has had enough with all the drunken rager parties that students are throwing at their shared rental houses, so he’s put up a site called DrunkenGeorgetownStudents.com.  He’s tired of having sleepless nights because of the hordes of Dionysian wild-eyed drunkards wandering his sleepy community until the wee hours.

Evidently the guy, Stephen R. Brown (LinkedIn, professional site, personal knol), lives on T Street and 37th, nearby where I used to live (at T Street and 38th) when I was a student there for 2 years.

Here’s the situation:  Georgetown is a small campus and it has little room to expand or to provide all of its students housing.  So many students live east and north of the campus in rowhouses, often with 4-7 students sharing the house.  A ton of grad students and medical students also live there, since the university provides no housing for them either.  As a grad student, I lived in Burleith with 3 other MSFS students and the landlord’s son, a medical student.

So, running the math:  Parties = Students + shared living + school full of students learning society and networking + proximity to campus + private residences.  Pretty straight-forward.

My house held several large parties for my program.  We would invite everyone over on a Friday or Saturday night.  We would inform our neighbors so they would know about it beforehand.  They were always cool with it.

What we quickly learned was that Burleith and Georgetown are filled with nosy neighbors.  Our first year was mostly okay, but the second year, the DC MPD (metro police) was wrangled into stepping up its patrolling efforts in the neighborhood for loud parties because the local residents were complaining.  As you can imagine, the police are strong-armed into doing with the residents want because they have far more power than the Georgetown students, who are sloughed off under the campus’s administrative sway.  And Georgetown usually rolls over for the local neighborhood, even though the Burleith and Georgetown areas would be completely dead without the campus.  I saw the same thing in Austin at UT (the top party school in the country).  Locals would act as though they had no use for UT Austin even though it is the lifeblood of the city.

One day in my second year, I was shocked to see flyers posted on campus and in the neighborhood anonymously posted by someone warning students not to be loud.  It had photos of houses, including the one I lived in.  I don’t know how the person targeted my house or if it was intentional, but it’s kind of worrisome, even to a guy, to see a photo of one’s own residence posted publicly without any knowledge of it.

The last party we ever threw, the neighborhood was under the full watch of a joint MPD/campus liaison program.  So liaisons were forced to drive around and warn party hosts that the cops might come.  I can only imagine how much this cost the school.  Liaisons came to our house and I stopped to talk to them.  I told them I’d talked to cops just prior to that, who warned me about the liaisons!  So everyone was stopping by to warn us about everyone else!

The next week, we received a notice from the school that we were cited for being loud and had to talk to the campus school conduct director.  Again, a great use of resources.  The woman we spoke to was highly professional and very understanding.  She warned us about future incidents and we promised we’d stop (which we did), but I thought it was completely absurd to be a 30+ year old person being told not to be loud at a party.

But you know, it gets better.  Now that I think about this guy’s blog (he’s a 60ish year old photographer), he’s probably the one who put up the flyer…anonymously.

And the neighborhood itself is pretty sketchy.  As a safe haven for wealthy, proper dignitaries (Joe Lieberman and other famous politicians live nearby), the emphasis is on property value and on high standards of decorum.  This probably explains why the neighborhood flyer is produced by, wouldn’t you know it, a Coldwell Banker real estate broker, Lenore Rubino!

Lenore Rubino, then, is also president of the Burleith community’s organizing group.  Do you see a conflict of interest where the “public interest” may have been hijacked by real estate interests?

The Georgetown campus community has several blogs, covering this new drunkard site, including Vox Populi and Saxa Speak.

Some (probably student) comments from Vox Populi’s post:

“YOUR NEXT PARTY PHOTOG says: April 28th, 2010 at 12:42 am

Hire me and Stephen to shoot your next party!!!! Whoever said Stephen is the Cobrasnake of Georgetown is right– professional party photography is the next big thing for Burleith. Hire us to capture the special moments of your party like making animal noises in a pool, broing out with officer crist, or reaching the point in the party where there are like 8 people in your backyard/porch.

We’ll be cross-posting the photos for your Monday morning viewing pleasure on spectacular table-based nightlife websites including drunkengeorgetownstudents.com, http://www.srbphoto.com, and srbphoto.zenfolio.com

Rates are highly competitive as we’re stuck in the past. We can also shoot video if we can ever get those videos to decompress!!!!!!!gahhhhh”

And:

“So, to recap: Neighbors called the cops 117 times in a four month period, which resulted in only 9 citations. That’s 7%, for those of you counting at home.

“I’d be interested in knowing the number of robberies that took place in the same amount of time while police were responding to the 93% of college students watching Netflix too loudly after 11.”

And:

“The Neighbors are completely unreasonable and they need to be stopped. They need to stop calling the cops for noise violations. College students are going to be loud. Nothing is ever going to change. If they don’t like noise they should move to a quieter neighborhood. Anyone calling the cops for noise before midnight is unreasonable. The power the CAG and the ANC has is ridiculous. The rerouting of the GUTS buses is completely ridiculous. Metro buses use the exact same routes that GUTS buses are now banned from running. The neighborhood really holds the university back from offering the best for it’s students. And if they don’t want students in houses off campus maybe they shouldn’t have blocked all attempts to use the wormley school. The Neighbors are completely ridiculous and won’t be satisfied until the school doesn’t exist anymore. They should have no rights to influence what the University does unless they can prove dramatic impact it would have on the neighborhood. None of their complaints have been close to justified.”

These blogs have also been covering the Georgetown community’s vehement rejection of Georgetown University’s proposed 10-year plan (which, if you read it, is pretty sane compared to what the neighbors think of it).  You can read the Burleith community’s April newsletter here, which complains about how the Georgetown plan will hurt Burleith (read, property values), and which, coincidentally, has an advertisement from Stephen R. Brown (the drunk student blog’s author) for his photography gigs.

Want some more insider baseball?  The local community has also been reducing the access that the free Georgetown University shuttles have to the neighborhood.  There are 2 main shuttles (and some smaller ones) that run students and campus members out to Dupont Circle and to Rosslyn in Virginia.  Since Georgetown can’t have a metro station for whatever reason (a subject of some debate, but probably because of zoning, property, and geography, but certainly something the locals would prefer never happened), these shuttles are really the only way for people to GET to campus, since parking is restricted and the city buses, while wonderful, cost money and aren’t always reliable.

The local residents, however, managed to shut out the shuttles from passing THROUGH the neighborhood.  So what was a 15-20 minute commute to and from Dupont Circle has turned into an epic bus ride up to the National Cathedral and down Embassy Row, usually a 30-minute trek.  The reasons cited?  Residents thought the buses rattled their houses.  Oh no!  Future knowledge workers and politicians trying to get to school are rattling houses!

In case you lost track, then, the residents 1) don’t want students living in their neighborhood, 2) don’t want to make it easy for students to live elsewhere and commute to campus instead of living in their neighborhood, and 3) harass the students who live in their neighborhood.

The complaints from residents have caused the campus to have to spend money on liaisons, to spend time on administering “problem” students, and to expend resources on bus drivers, shuttle schedules, etc.

Even more insider baseball:  this has all happened while the neighborhood continues to fall victim to criminals who prey on the population.  We have the infamous Georgetown Cuddler, who must have over like a dozen incidents of sneaking into girls’ homes and getting in bed with them while they sleep.  We have Prospect and other streets near M Street that continually have incidents of armed robbery and sexual attacks IN the streets.  I have friends and fellow alumni who were MUGGED in the street.  One was pistol-whipped.  Another was choked out until she passed out and her bag was taken.  All while the local residents complain about noise from parties (in controlled environments which probably make things safer for young students).  Police manpower is being diverted for THIS?

Do you see a mismatch of interests here?  Look, a local community’s interests are going to be to shut out drunkenness, loudness, whatever.  But they hold Georgetown University by the shorthairs and it’s not going to change that students drink and party.  The power is set up so that the neighborhood has far too much influence, and it’s not helped by the fact that the local association is run by a real estate broker and other interests who don’t have any compelling need to listen to Georgetown University’s interests.

Just check out this recap (and another) of the recent Burleith Citizens Association meeting, in which Rubino closed with:

“At risk is not only our quality of life, but the value of one of our biggest investments, our homes. Many real estate agents and buyers see Burelith as a student party town. If just ten more houses turn rental, that turns into 6 0more students, and 60 more cars looking for parking,” she said. “Georgetown will hire the best attorneys and experts their money can buy. Your money will hire a zoning expert and urban planner. We have done a lot of work ourselves, but we need the experts to fine-tune our case.”

Said another speaker, Glen Harrison:

“Burleith will no longer be a diverse neighborhood where children, parents, families, seniors, single renters, and even students live together, but will become a student village.”

REALLY?

I’m not making any grand pronouncements here.  If anything, the MPD seems to be juggling all this well, and I’ve always had good relations with them.  They’re doing their job as best they can.  The Georgetown administrators have been pretty fair about the whole thing, as best they can.  The students I saw were not violent or disrespectful.  They were just being young.  My neighbors too were also very understanding and always welcomed us over and wanted to talk to us.

It’s just a few people who are being completely unreasonable and who, through their own personal issues, are causing organizations around them to expend considerable manpower and financial resources to make them happy.  How fair is that?

Wrapping Up 2009, Planning 2010

Things I did in 2009 (in no particular order):

  • Ran my first marathon with Dina, Rose, and Dan, in Charlottesville, VA.
  • Earned my Master’s in Foreign Service from Georgetown.
  • Got an awesome job as a social media operations analyst.
  • Started the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process to become a Catholic and Christian.
  • Moved into my first solo apartment.
  • Went to Jamaica and the Bahamas.
  • Went to Future of Web Apps Miami 2009.

What I plan to accomplish in 2010:

  • Become baptized as a Catholic and Christian. (will happen at Easter)
  • Volunteer to help women in need and the homeless.
  • Play the lottery every week (I already know what I want to do but just need the capital).
  • Go to Future of Web Apps Miami 2010. (already booked)
  • Either do a long-desired Great Asia Tour (Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, etc.) or a trip to Ecuador to take a boat out to the Galapagos Islands (as a sort of rite of passage for Galapag.us).  I’ll want company for these trips!